September 28, 2021 I From The Trenches I by Myrna Sislen
Why We Needed Summer NAMM
From the first moment I arrived at the cocktail party for the NASMD Convention, it became clear that Summer NAMM 2021 was the right place to be. Even though, for many of us, this trip to Nashville, Tenneesse, was the first trip we had taken since March 2020, the most people we had seen in one place in over a year and the first time we’d been inside without a mask, I saw everyone responding in exactly the same way: How close can we get? Should we hug? Can we touch at all? Then saying, “Oh well, bring it on,” and hugging like it was the first hug of our lives.
The smiles and the laughter are what I remember most. Honestly, I didn’t know how meaningful this trip would be. I think we all had gotten so used to being by ourselves, even with Zoom meetings, that we had become desensitized. As Scott Mandeville of Tim’s Music insightfully observed, “It’s hard to get used to the fact that it is OK to be OK.”
Well, it only took one NASMD cocktail reception and dinner to bring it all back. We are our connections. Each one of us had endured 18 months of, as NAMM’s Joe Lamond described it, operating during wartime. His words crystallized the entire experience for me. We all had done everything we could to survive, and for most of us that’s continuing. But for a week in Nashville it was all about reconnecting, hugging, smiling and laughing.
How wise of NAMM to realize that what we needed most at this point was to reestablish our relationships in person. We all must have sensed that, because many of us retailers came to Nashville, unlike the manufacturers, most of whom did not show up. But that was OK, too, because this show wasn’t about buying, it wasn’t about business. It was about seeing our family — our NAMMily — and gaining strength from each other.
As Tristann Rieck, owner of Brass Bell Music, put it, it was, “the most remarkable industry week of my life — so many friends, so many memories. Nothing else can compare.” Jenna Day of Day Violins said, “I had no idea the strength and the rejuvenation I would feel from coming here this year.” And Ron Manus of Alfred Music shared with me that after the first day seeing so many great friends and keeping it together, he went back to his room and cried. I can guarantee that he wasn’t the only one.
NASMD, RPMDA, SWIM, IMMG and AIMM all scheduled sessions and meetings during the week. For the NASMD Convention, President Whitney Brown Grisaffi and her board of directors organized a packed day of sessions on Tuesday, including a trip to KHS and Jupiter. Whitney told us they thought attendance would be 125, so they planned for 150 to be safe. It turned out to be 250.
On Wednesday, I went back to Jupiter headquarters with the IMMG. During the visit, Jerry Goldenson, KHS president, and his wonderful staff went the extra mile to show us the facility, take our photo playing the drums, feed us lunch and show us every facet of their operation. My favorite moment was being able to visit with Tabor Stamper, my fellow former NAMM board member and KHS President Emeritus.
Then it was back to the convention center for the RPMDA social, followed by our inspiring SWIM meeting, where we met the three talented recipients of this year’s SWIM scholarship.
Thursday morning at 9 a.m., Summer NAMM 2021 officially opened with the morning keynote featuring NAMM CEO Joe Lamond. It was informative, intimate and entertaining. On Thursday night, there was the Top 100 Dealer Awards, where everyone fully enjoyed themselves, and during which I networked with Blues Angel Music’s Nan DeStafney and Lee Raymond of High Strung Violins and Guitars. I had the wonderful surprise of seeing NAMM board alum Brian Reardon, who sold his store and is now planning to open it again. The biggest surprise of the show? Discovering after 20 years that Beacock Music’s Russ Beacock is very funny. Maybe funnier than I am.
The takeaway is that the industry needed Summer NAMM 2021. It brought us back to life in the best possible way. Now we are ready move beyond “surviving is the new thriving,” and head towards the future. MI
Myrna Sislen owns and operates Middle C Music in Washington, D.C.